Let’s say you have an in-person meeting coming up with someone you don’t know too well yet.
It might be a planning session, a sales call, an informational interview, a negotiation, or just a friendly lunch. Whatever the context, you want the other person to understand who you are and why you’re meeting — and ultimately take you seriously from the start.
Here’s how to make that happen, with the help of one simple, powerful email.
This strategy comes courtesy of Dorie Clark (author of Reinventing You), who shared the following story in her AOC podcast interview.
Some time back, Dorie walked into a meeting she was amped about — a meeting the other person was looking forward to, as well. But when she sat down, he immediately dropped this bomb: “Who are you and why are you here?”
She was flabbergasted: A mutual acquaintance had introduced them, and Dorie was an expert on the subject they were meeting about. She had assumed, very reasonably, that the other person would google her upon receiving the introduction. Instead, she had to waste valuable time at the start of the meeting explaining — almost defending — her expertise and background.
That’s when Dorie started using the Email Strategy, a basic email sent in advance of a conversation outlining she is, what she’s offering, and — this is important — why she was meeting this person in the first place.
The technique was originally championed by persuasion expert Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, who points out that writing out your accomplishments is more socially acceptable than rattling them off in person. The information gets processed differently in text, which allows us to “brag” about ourselves, by sharing our background and relevant qualifications, in a way that primes the other person for the meeting.
In other words, all the things you want the other person to know about you — or would assume that the other person would learn by googling you — you can articulate by email ahead of the meeting.
We usually presume that when we walk into a meeting or phone call with someone new — even one that we set up ourselves — the other person knows everything about us, understands why we’re connecting, and is as excited as we are about the conversation.
But as we know, people are busy. Life gets crazy. People frequently forget to google you. Between the time they set up the meeting and the time it comes around, they might have forgotten why it’s even happening in the first place. Chances are, you do the same thing in your meetings.
Which means you usually end up spending time establishing credibility and relevance once the meeting starts, instead of making the most of your time on the real point of the conversation.
Enter the Email Strategy.
This pre-meeting email is basically your representative ahead of the actual meeting. Done right, it accomplishes several huge things in a very short amount of time:
- Confirms the meeting, making it hard if not impossible for the other person to flake.
- Reminds them who you are and why you’re meeting in the first place.
- Establishes your credentials and credibility without having to brag about or defend them in person.
- Gets them excited to meet you (as excited as you are, which is key).
- Cuts the length of your actual meeting in half (at least!), because you don’t have to spend time explaining who you are.
- Most important, it allows you to spend the majority of your time talking about the real issue at hand.
So here’s a template you can use for your email.
We developed this template on Dorie’s recommendation and after sending this email a couple of times ourselves, so we know it works.
I’m really looking forward to our [call/meeting/session] tomorrow.
Ahead of our conversation, in order to make it as productive and efficient as possible, I wanted to to tell you a little bit about me and the experience I’ve had in regard to [the topic you’re meeting about].
[Next, write three to five bullet points or sentences in short, punchy paragraphs on your background/relevant experience, and how it’s led to you speaking to this person right now.]
[Next, articulate clearly why you want to connect at this moment. Get very specific. “I wanted to meet you because ____. I’m also looking forward to chatting so we can _____.”]
[Finally, reiterate your enthusiasm about your meeting. “I’m excited to get to know each other. Anna has said truly wonderful things about you.”]
And that’s the template. Simple. Elegant. Direct. Fill in the blanks with your unique details, and use our killer email tricks to make it your own.
After seeing what this email has done to our conversations, none of us at AoC ever want to walk into a first meeting without having sent it.
Our alumni and listeners are also using it left and right.
Kendra, one of our listeners, sent this email before a meet-and-greet with a well-connected entrepreneur, who knew a ton of clients she wanted to work for. The entrepreneur emailed her back right away saying the email was “insanely helpful.”
Once they sat down for coffee, she could tell he already had a great impression of her, because he had her pre-picked “career highlights” at the top of his mind. Having gotten the bio portion of the meeting out of the way, they jumped into the meat of the conversation immediately, which meant she got more help in a shorter amount of time. They also spent more time connecting and bonding, instead of swapping background information.
Another surprising benefit of the email? Because Kendra primed him for the meeting in advance, the entrepreneur had over 24 hours before their meeting to think about her skills and the clients who needed them. This was super valuable, because he came to the table with some introductions in mind, even though she never asked for them explicitly in writing or in person.
So try the Email Strategy out, and see what it does for your meetings.
I guarantee it’ll make them more productive, enthusiastic and efficient. You’ll find people taking you more seriously, and you’ll notice that the energy and outcomes of your conversation will be noticeably stronger. The people you meet will also love you for cutting down the bio/background/elevator pitch portion of the call and going straight to the good stuff, which is what we’re really after in our networking.
Thanks for the tip, Dorie!
Lead image by Sophie